Kasey Young had been looking forward to this day for more than half her life.
Every practice and game Young had since she progressed from rec-league basketball to the AAU circuit and on to middle school and high school was pointing Young toward the day she would sign with a Division I college, and that day came Wednesday when the Danville senior signed a letter-of-intent to play for Eastern Kentucky in a ceremony at the school gymnasium.
“It kind of closes the curtain and relieves a lot of stress,” Young said. “It gets the pressure off before the season starts.”
There wasn’t any mystery about Young’s college choice. She committed to EKU in October 2011 and has remained firm in her decision, even as other schools have tried to sway her.
But Danville coach Judie Mason said the signing should bring a sense of relief to Young, who has spent the last 10 summers on the AAU circuit in hopes of developing skills that would make her attractive to D-1 coaches.
“Now she can concentrate on playing basketball and not impressing anybody,” Mason said. “I told her this will be the first year she can actually relax. She’s worked hard to get to this point, and I’m sure today is a sigh of relief, being able to sign that scholarship.”
Young’s parents, Doug Young and Pam Young, and her grandmother, Jewell Turner, were beside her for the signing, which was witnessed by her teammates and coaches, a few other family members and a few dozen Danville students.
“I’ve been very nervous, knowing everyone’s going to be here, and I’m kind of a shy person,” Young said.
She briefly addressed the assembly, thanking her high school and AAU coaches, as well as her parents “for spending all kinds of money for me to go to camps.”
Then it was sign here, initial there and send the papers off to Richmond as Young became the Danville girls’ first Division I signee.
“That’s a big honor for her,” Mason said.
Mason said it was also something she wanted her other players to see.
“That’s why I brought my younger kids over, so they could see that, because I think we’ve got a lot of potential down the road that could walk in her shoes,” she said.
But the coach said that while it’s a big day for the program, it’s a bigger day still for Young.
“She doesn’t realize what a big day it is, and it’s probably a bigger day for her parents, (with her) getting a free education,” Mason laughed and said.
Young said a handful of visits to EKU and chats with the Colonels’ coaches convinced her that was the place to be.
“It just seemed like a really good fit,” she said. “I started seeing how they would play, and I started thinking how I would fit in with their program.
“Their coaches said they needed a shooting guard, so I would watch their shooting guards and see how they played and see how they played in transition. They run a really fast-paced game similar to Danville, so I just thought I’d really fit in.
Mason said Young was excited about EKU from the start, and she never wavered in her commitment.
“I tried to get her to wait a while, to see her options, but she told me that day, ‘I want to go here, this is where I want to go,’ and from that day she’s never looked anywhere else,” Mason said. “Other Division I schools have contacted her, and she’s said, ‘I’m not interested.’ She knows.”
Young is a two-time Advocate All-Area honoree who emerged as an effective outside shooter and has been gradually adding other elements to her game, including driving to the basket, rebounding and post offense and defense. She averaged 17.0 points and 4.0 rebounds and shot 41.8 percent from the field for Danville last season.
“I give her a hard time because I expect her to be the best all the time, but she has come a long way,” Mason said.
Young said she’s already good friends with one future teammate, Katie Pippen of Tates Creek, who plays on her AAU team.
“We got to know each other really well, and we talked about being roommates,” Young said. “And the players that are already over there, they’ve already taken a liking to me, and we’ve got a bond. They text me all the time, and we talk and stuff.”
Young said while she’s looking forward to her college career, she’s in no hurry to get to Richmond. She’s also looking forward to her final high school season and the possibilities for the Admirals, which she said include runs at the All “A” Classic statewide title and the 12th Region championship.
“Even though I’m signing, I still want to have a great year in high school,” she said. “With this team, I think that we can do great things.”